Architects design school for girls in Afghanistan

A collaborative attempt between David Miller and Robert Hull has resulted in the opening of a school for girls in Afghanistan

Gohar Khatoon Girl's School in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Gohar Khatoon Girl's School in Mazar-i-Sharif.

A collaborative attempt between two architects who worked together for 40 years has resulted in the opening of a school for girls in Afghanistan.

David Miller and Robert Hull first met at Washington State University, Seattle, USA.

They then joined the Peace Corps, Miller in Brazil and Hull in Afghanistan. The school was their final joint project – designed just before Hull died following complications arising from a stroke.

They reconnected and formed an architecture firm, The Miller Hull Partnership, which has created buildings including Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion and Capitol Hill’s Bullitt Center.

Now the Gohar Khatoon Girls’s School in Mazar-i-Sharif has opened its doors to 3,000 pupils.

“We had that kind of bond and working relationship that made each of us better,” Miller said.

The school reflects Miller and Hull’s shared beginnings as young architects and their vision for beautiful and sustainable design, both at home and abroad.

“I think what both Bob and I learned from being in the Peace Corps and working in developing countries is to problem-solve and figure out what you can do with existing resources that are available nearby,” said Miller.

The school features handmade windows, breezeways that encourage natural ventilation and a private courtyard for girls to play sports.

The school faculty said: “Many children going to school in Afghanistan must do so in less than comfortable conditions. Schools are often connected to a limited, or unstable power supply, and these institutions operate on almost no budget, often leaving insufficient funds for heating fuel. The design of Gohar Khatoon provides a comfortable learning environment while also operating essentially ‘off the grid’.

“The main staircase in each classroom block forms a ‘sunspace’ that captures heat from the sun for warming the classrooms in winter. Large seasonal doors at the end of the sunspaces can be opened in the warmer months, allowing cool breezes to move through the building.

“These built-in environmental strategies foster autonomy and self-sufficiency, and allow the school to perform under difficult circumstances using few resources. Capitalising on low-tech climate responses results in a dependable institution that provides students and staff shelter and comfort for the long term.”

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